5 Things You Can Expect at This Year’s E3
The biggest videogame conference of the year, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, is right around the corner. It’s always an exciting time for gamers and members of the industry because it gives everyone a chance to see and talk about the newest products planned for the rest of the year. But because there are always new games and technology, every show is a different experience, and with so much going on it can be hard to tell what might happen.
Still, as someone who has been a couple times and watched from home many more, there are a few things you can count on. Here are some of them.
5. Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony will let it all hang out and see whose (console) is best
Ok, that header sounds off – but you know what I’m talking about. It’s the same thing that happens every year: the Big Three grandstand with all their new games and toys to say, “don’t buy their games, buy our games.”
Last year Nintendo got to hock the Wii U at everyone, and the year before that Sony and Microsoft jumped on the motion control bandwagon. Usually it’s relatively low-key and everyone watching just smiles, chuckling behind their hands as if to say, “look at how cute they are.”
But this year is going to be intense, because everyone will go all out. Both Sony and Microsoft have new consoles to sell, and they need to sell a lot of them to turn a profit. They’re going pull out all the stops to entice us into choosing their console over their competitors’.
Nintendo, while they don’t have a new console to compete with, will desperately try and give consumers a reason to buy a Wii U, which currently doesn’t exist. They did make the first game-changing move, though, by choosing not to have a press conference this year.
Instead, they’re going to have a Nintendo Direct presentation on the first morning of E3, which will be available online. Oddly enough, this seems like a good choice. The conferences always seem so phony and contrived, but Nintendo’s past Nintendo Direct presentations have been solid and informative.
What’s more, Nintendo is also filling Best Buys (yes, there are still Best Buys) with the same games they’ll be showing off at their E3 booth. For those outside the industry and media (who cannot attend E3), this is a huge opportunity.
Of course they probably could have picked somewhere less desperate and frustrating than Best Buy to show off their new games, but it’s still an amazing chance for the entire gaming community.
So far, Sony and Microsoft are keeping their aces up their sleeves (but I will bet anyone money that both will copy Nintendo next year by having their E3 game demos available to the public!). Just wait until their press conferences begin, though – something big is going to happen. It’ll have to if they want to actually make some money off their new consoles this year, because right now things aren’t looking as great as they did a few months ago.
Speaking of the new consoles and the public’s concern with them…
4. This whole DRM confusion will be settled once and for all
Lately it feels like some gamers are more concerned with the presence of digital rights management on their new consoles than the games, but since no one can give a straight answer on the DRM subject, that’s not surprising.
There were rumors that Microsoft and Sony’s new consoles might have DRM restrictions from the beginning. Back then people just seemed disconcerted, but once the Xbox One reveal confirmed the issue, everyone started freaking out.
Well, apparently, Microsoft doesn’t actually intend to do that. They just want to change the way used games function. Or at least that’s what it seems like. The problem is no one actually knows how this DRM is going to work because no one at Microsoft will give anyone a consistent answer.
Sony isn’t being any more forthcoming with how their console’s DRM will work, but public opinion seems to think there’s going to be something they won’t like. It even started a little Twitter campaign with the hash-tag #PS4NoDRM. The sentiment should be easy to understand.
The good news, as far as Sony is concerned, is that Sony Worldwide Studios President Shuhei Yoshida was cracking jokes about there being DRM on the PS Vita over Twitter. This lighthearted approach to the serious subject seems to suggest that Sony’s DRM won’t be as drastic. That, or that Yoshida is kind of a dick and foreshadowing strict DRM policies by rubbing it in everyone’s face. But I lean more toward the first possibility.
Regardless of what their policies turn out to be, the world will have straight answers by the end of the show. E3 will have thousands of media outlets hounding Microsoft and Sony representatives with questions about DRM until someone gets a definitive answer, so they’re pretty likely to talk about it either at their respective press conferences or by releasing statements before the show starts.
Meanwhile Nintendo is just laughing in the corner, hoping that this pisses off enough gamers to increase their customer base. (It won’t.)
3. E3 will be dominated by old franchises even though gamers want more new ones
It seems like this is happening more and more each year. Instead of getting fresh ideas and new series to explore, most publishers will spend all of their time showing off their fourth sequel to a game that made them a lot of money once.
Oh sure, there will be a few new shiny games that will make us drool like the starved children that we are, but not many. This year’s show has stellar looking games like Ubisoft’s WATCH_DOGS or Bungie’s Destiny (more on that next), but otherwise there are an awful lot of sequels.
Don’t get it twisted – the simple fact that something is a sequel absolutely doesn’t mean it’s going to be a bad game. Games like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Batman: Arkham Origins already look great, and I’m really excited to see the new Super Smash Bros. But just to put it in perspective, here’s a list of notable repeat series we’ll see this year:
- Call of Duty: Ghosts
- Wolfenstein: The New Order
- The Elder Scrolls Online
- Saints Row IV
- Battlefield 4
- Dragon Age III
- Every damn sports game
- Need for Speed: Rivals
- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (This one isn’t even a new game at all!)
- Some new Mario Kart game
- Some new Super Mario game
- Gran Turismo 6
- Killzone: Mercenary
- Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure
- Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
For comparison, here are most of the big-name new franchises I haven’t already mentioned.
- The Last of Us
- Dying Light
- Quantum Break
- Beyond Two Souls
Of course that completely ignores indie games (which are almost always new and often wonderful), and I’m sure there are some new titles coming out that publishers have yet to announce. But the point is, just look at the difference. It’s abysmal.
Like I said, this discrepancy is nothing new, and a lot of people will be wishing for more new series after E3 is finished.
2. Destiny is going to steal the show
This one goes without saying. I mean, just think about what happened the last time Bungie released a new franchise: they made videogame history with Halo. And from what what’s been shown off so far, it looks like Destiny will follow in its predecessor’s footsteps.
It’s too early to make any kind of calls about what Destiny will actually play like, but the initial details are promising.
Players will be able to customize their character with at least three races and classes that gives some individuality to the experience. Now, that’s far from groundbreaking content, but it demonstrates Bungie’s willingness to move beyond their comfort zone with basic first-person shooters and innovate.
The game is also being labeled as a “shared-world shooter,” which is also exciting. Having to always be online might be end up being a pain, but if Bungie pulls it off they’ll have managed to marry the two most popular genres of videogames: shooters and MMORPGs.
From a visual standpoint it will be just as stunning as any other next-gen game (if not more so because of Destiny’s budget), and if the music is anything like Halo’s, I’ll pre-order the soundtrack today. Some games nail one and not the other, but it’s rare to find a beautiful and unique world with music that brings everything you do to life. Bungie is good at that.
But all other reasons aside, there’s one essential factor that will make Bungie’s Destiny the undisputed most interesting thing about E3.
You see, if there’s one thing Bungie can do that other studios can’t, it’s make an icon. And no, I don’t mean a lovable character or even the vibrant universe they explore. What I’m talking about is a symbol, one thing that makes you say “that’s what this game is all about.”
Just think of the titular halos in Halo, which awed gamers before anyone even knew what they were for. It didn’t matter that everyone would fall in love with the Master Chief and Cortana, because Bungie had their hooks in everyone after showing off the first halo ring.
Destiny has its own alluring icon – something called the Traveler.
Bungie hasn’t disclosed everything about it, but we do know that the Traveler is a massive, white sphere that supposedly elevated humanity into a golden age and protected the Earth’s last surviving city when aliens invaded. As for where it comes from, why it’s helping humanity, or what it even is, no one knows yet. But you know what? That’s the best part, and a huge part of why Destiny will buzz the loudest. Everyone will want to know more.
1. E3 will remind everyone why it isn’t as relevant as it used to be
E3 isn’t the same as it used to be. That kind of goes without saying, but it’s more nuanced than that. As the videogame industry evolves, so too do the mediums that companies present their news through. At the start, E3 was an event that was all about games, where new consoles and franchises were popping up all over the place. Today, a lot of those games are classics, and we still look fondly upon the consoles of yesteryear – but the luster has started to fade on E3 itself.
A big reason is due to shifting trends in gaming; namely that they’re not making as much money as they used to. It’s just not enough to make a videogame console – it has to be an “entertainment system.” As a result, some of the focus on games is siphoned off onto these periphery features, like being able to watch TV on the Xbox One. While that’s not the end of the world, it can be frustrating for core gamers who only care about good games.
And yes, companies still roll out the red carpet for all of the great games they have to show off, but a lot is song and dance without much substance. Overly extravagant show-floor displays and unnecessary booth babes just get in the way of the one thing everyone cares about: playing and making good videogames.
Still, there is a far bigger reason E3 won’t be as relevant for long: the everyday gamer can’t even go to it.
As of now, only industry professionals and members of the media can attend. That’s not an inherently terrible idea, because that’s how it’s been since pretty much the beginning.
But new conventions, like the Penny Arcade Expo, are becoming more popular and stealing some of the spotlight. And the real kicker for shows like PAX is that anyone can go and be a part of it, getting to see the new games up close before they ever come out. What’s more, those conventions are for gamers and not the industry.
There’s already evidence of the shift. Every year, more and more information is being saved for conferences like PAX, and a lot of the games announced at E3 show up there as well.
It might be a while before E3 starts taking a back seat to everything else, but I think it’s only a matter of time before the game conferences go into the gamers’ hands. E3 will surely show us why.
The big picture
With all that out of the way, you might be left with the impression that E3 is actually going to be disappointing – but don’t. There will still be a lot of great games to focus on, and the Xbox One and PS4 might turn out to be the consoles we hoped they’d be. Besides, even if the DRM restrictions on each console is harsh, the benefits might still outweigh the costs. After all, we haven’t seen even a fraction of what Microsoft and Sony have planned for their consoles. And while E3 might not be the show it once was, it’s still the best show gamers have right now.
For those looking to keep an eye on the show as it develops, things really kick off on Monday June 10 with everyone’s press conferences. Microsoft, Sony, EA and Ubisoft are the big ones to watch, with live streams available all over the Internet (and probably on Spike TV too). Then the show-proper starts Tuesday June 11 and goes through that Thursday. I’ll be there the whole time and will have plenty to say during and after right here on the Artifice.
In the meantime, if you’re thirst for E3 previews remains, be sure to check out Joe C’s more in depth look at some of the better games expected at the show.
What do you think? Leave a comment.